I have learnt that we have to have power, strength, courage and we have to believe in what we want to. No one can stop us!

Pupil, Start Programme

The 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and yet, the number of children and young people across the UK participating in the arts is on the decline and access to the arts is insufficient. That means thousands of children leaving school without ever visiting their local art gallery or theatre. It means that opportunities to sing, paint or perform in school are dwindling. It can even mean attending a school that does not offer subjects such as Art, Music, or Drama.


The Warwick Commission 2015 report on the Future of Cultural Value revealed the extent of the problem and showed that young people face multiple restrictions when it comes to engaging with the arts. For instance:

  • Between 2008-14, there was consistent and steady decline in arts participation for 5-10 year olds across a variety of art forms, including: Dance (down from 43.1% to 30.4%); Music (55.3% to 37.2%); Theatre and Drama (47.1% to 32.1%); and Arts and Crafts (80% to 75.7%);
  • Between 2003-13 there was a 25-50% drop in the GCSE numbers for subjects such as Design & Technology, Drama and other craft-related subjects;
  • Children from low-income and/or black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are even less likely to experience cultural participation, especially with their local arts venues. In addition, since 2010, the number of arts teachers in schools has fallen by up to 11%, and this has had a disproportionately adverse effect on schools serving disadvantaged pupils.


Children you wouldn’t expect to engage have flourished in this creative programme. 

Teacher on the Start Programme


At Children & the Arts, we strongly believe in the long-term academic and personal benefits that access to the arts can offer young people.


That’s why we created a number of programmes designed to bring the arts to the children who need the inspiration most. Two of our biggest programmes are Start and Quests. Start is a three-year programme that links schools in deprived areas with their local arts venues, offering pupils the chance to explore creative experiences outside of the traditional school environment. Our Quests, meanwhile, are year-long, high-impact national arts projects that encourage school children to explore all angles of a single art form, using visits to a cultural venue, workshops led by professional artists and a finale showcase for the children to share their own work.


Our projects have been shown to help children develop a variety of skills, including creative thinking, communication and self-confidence. When asked:

  • 100% of teachers felt that our Start programme helped pupils’ communication skills and had a positive effect on self-confidence;
  • 100% of teachers state that Start helped their students to develop creative thinking skills;
  • 97% teachers agreed that Start helped pupils to become increasingly confident and creative in their own right and 82% believed that it had helped increase self-esteem;
  • 89% of teachers found that there had been a positive impact on pupils’ academic skills;
  • 86% of teachers believed that taking part in Start has had a positive impact on their pupils’ overall personal development.


May I take this opportunity to thank Children & the Arts most kindly for enabling our pupils to take part in this project... It has given them insights that we are not able to deliver in a school environment. They have returned with a new level of confidence and full of possibilities for a future, with art as an important part of their lives. 

Teacher on the Start Programme


We believe passionately that every child has a right to access the arts, which is why we work to build sustainable partnerships between schools and their local arts venue. We aim to work with schools in areas of urban deprivation or rural isolation, serving high numbers of disadvantaged pupils, because we know that these children have the most to gain from the inspirational experiences available at their local arts venue.


With our support, schools and arts venues across the UK are unlocking creative opportunities for some of our most disadvantaged children. In doing so, we believe that we help promote, protect and provide cultural democracy and opportunity for all.


I have learned that I can be so creative!

Pupil, Start Programme 

Find out more about our Start programme and Quest projects

Banner Image © Amit Lennon

Unfortuneately we are unable to provide funding to individuals wishing to study or build a career in the arts. Please download our Additional Funding Bodies Document for information alternative bodies to approach.